Venus Williams was bothered by a bad knee and distracted by more than a half-dozen foot faults. What never fazed her: a big deficit.
Quite close to losing in the U.S. Open's first round for the first time, Williams came all the way back from a set and a break down to beat 47th-ranked Vera Dushevina of Russia 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-3 Monday night.
The No. 3-seeded Williams, twice the champion at Flushing Meadows, had her left knee bandaged by a trainer after the third game. The American also had plenty of trouble serving: She piled up 10 double-faults and was called for seven foot-faults.
Dushevina broke for a 3-1 lead in the second set and was three points from winning at 5-4. But Williams, who never has lost in the U.S. Open's first round, won the next seven games.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer and Serena Williams began their U.S. Open title defenses with easy wins in matches that probably will stick only in the memories of the players they beat.
Federer defeated NCAA champion Devin Britton 6-1, 6-3, 7-5, and Williams rolled over wild card Alexa Glatch 6-4, 6-1.
"My goal was to not get crushed," Britton said, "and make it interesting for a little while."
He did, even breaking Federer's serve in the second and third sets, though he was unable to follow either by winning his own serve in the next game. With his coach from Ole Miss in the stands, Britton lost three straight games at love after going ahead 3-1 in the second.
Glatch was in the same boat, pushing the second-seeded Serena Williams in the first set before losing quickly in the second. One of America's top juniors earlier in the decade, Glatch received a wild card for the U.S. Open, only to find she was playing one of the best Grand Slam players in history.
Williams, who has won the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year, is going for her second straight and fourth U.S. Open title.
Other winners in the first round included eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenka, 12th-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, 17th-seeded Amelie Mauresmo and 26th-seeded Francesca Schiavone. Paul-Henri Mathieu, No. 26 on the men's side, was the first seeded player to lose, beaten by Mikhail Youzhny 2-6, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2.
American John Isner won a 16-14 second-set tiebreaker, the highlight of a 6-1, 7-6 (14), 7-6 (5) upset against 28th-seeded Victor Hanescu. No. 21 James Blake of Tampa also advanced.
Opening the day in Ashe Stadium was 2005 champion Kim Clijsters, who returned to competitive tennis this summer after taking two years off to start a family. She beat Viktoriya Kutuzova 6-1, 6-1.